A Russian spy may have been working in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for more than a decade, unbeknownst to U.S. authorities. Now the Secret Service is being accused of trying to cover up this incident rather than making an honest attempt at solving the problem.
What's the background?
According to a report from The Guardian, by the time it was discovered that the woman had been spying for the Russian government she had already worked at the embassy for more than a decade.
The woman had access to emails, the embassy's intranet, classified information, details about ongoing Secret Service investigations, and the Secret Service's system for tracking counterfeit money. She was also meeting regularly and without embassy approval with contacts from the FSB, the modern equivalent of the Soviet-era KGB.
According to The Guardian's anonymous source, “her frequent contacts with the FSB gave her away ... numerous unsanctioned meetings and communications.”
The source also said that this suspected spy had access to “the most damaging database, which is the U.S. Secret Service official mail system....Part of her access was schedules of the president – current and past, vice president and their spouses, including Hillary Clinton.”
Other embassy employees reportedly emailed the woman at her non-work account, breaking protocol and potentially worsening the problem.
When was the woman discovered?
The U.S. State Department's Regional Security Office discovered the issue in 2016 during a routine review conducted every five years. After an investigation, the RSO reported this breach to the Secret Service in January 2017.
Then the Secret Service did nothing for months before quietly firing her. She was fired last summer around the time that 750 U.S. personnel were ordered to leave the mission by the Russian government as retribution for U.S. sanctions. Whether deliberately or not, this mass expulsion helped to keep the single firing of this suspected spy from attracting much attention.
The CIA and FBI were also reportedly aware of this incident, but apparently assumed that the Secret Service would handle the matter.
The Secret Service did not deny that this former embassy employee was suspected to be a Russian spy, but they insisted that foreign service nationals employed by U.S. embassies do not have access to national security information.